Friendly Planet moves to local-friendly site

Owners believe new location fits their idea of a store at community center

Posted: Monday, December 15, 2003

What was once a natural food grocery store has been transformed to a "mellow" place to drink coffee, listen to music, look at art and buy international products in downtown Juneau.

The Friendly Planet Trading Company opened the doors to its new location, the former site of Rainbow Foods, in time for Gallery Walk on Friday, Dec. 5.

"We have a core group of business principles, and locals pretty much dictate what we do," said Richmond Kelly, co-owner of the Friendly Planet Trading Company. "That's why we have the stage, that's why we have the coffee."

Locals also are the reason why brightly colored couches and wood coffee tables are scattered around the new location. The couches are for customers to use, not to buy. Art hangs on the walls and the couple has pledged to keep the store open seven days per week year-round.

Kelly and his partner Heather Conlin chose to move the store to the Simpson Building to better fit their idea of the store as a community center.

"In the Senate Building we felt like we weren't quite in the right space for what we wanted to do," Kelly said.

A stage in the corner of the main floor of the store will be used for evening concerts on the weekends. Frequent travelers who live in Juneau also might use the space to give slide presentations of their journies.

"There is a real travel bug in Juneau," said Conlin. "...This can be a place where people can share their adventures with the community."

Kelly began remodeling the space in the Simpson Building 2 1/2 months ago, while Conlin continued to work full-time at the Alaska Brewing Company.

"We pretty much gutted it and started over," said Kelly. Had he hired someone to do the remodeling work on the building, he estimates it would have cost about $100,000.

The new space will allow the couple to display more of the furniture, pottery, jewelry, clothing and art they acquire while on purchasing trips to Asia and South America, which they take once or twice a year. The couple also will use the store as a base for their wholesale operations to furniture stores in San Francisco and on the East Coast.

The most noticible benifit of the new store is it gives the company a chance to highlight its furniture, Conlin said. Wood dressers and tables that now line the floor of the Simpson building were once a part of buildlings in Indonesia that the couple purchases.

Once they own the buildings, Kelly and Conlin hire craftsmen to refinish the wood and decorate it with carvings. Only a fraction of the pieces the craftsmen create end up in Juneau, Kelly said. The ones that do are sold for considerably less than they'll sell in California.

"Our wholesale price in San Fancisco is the same as our retail price here," Kelly said.

• Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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